If your car broke down, would you immediately begin an in-depth investigation into precisely why it broke down? Would you research what had happened, factor in the mileage on your vehicle and try to determine whether it was reasonable for such a problem to have happened? Would you see to be compensated for the fact that your car broken down five miles earlier than the average car does, or would you call your mechanic to get the car fixed so you could go about your business?
The answer to these questions seem quite obvious when we are talking about mechanical issues, but when we are talking about social issues the problem becomes more complicated. The Buddha is said to have told a story about a man who was shot with a poison arrow. The Buddha advised that if we are shot with a poison arrow, we shouldn’t as who shot the arrow or why, what sort of poison was on the arrow – we should pull the arrow out. There will be plenty of time later to ask those other questions, but the first order of business is to survive and get treatment for the poison. It seems simple, and it seems obvious, but if the way we handle our societal problems is any indication then either it’s much more complicates or we don’t focus on the right things.
A better approach might be to ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve and the concrete steps we need to take to get there. If people are hungry, we need to get them food. If they are sick, we need to get them to a doctor. IF they are homeless, we need to get them shelter. This is no different that our belief that if someone is having a heart attack at City Hall, we need to call the paramedics. Getting into discussions of who deserves treatment and who doesn’t is quite simply immoral. Later, once their needs are met and they are safe, we can ask how it came to be that those people got hungry and sick and work to make the needed changes to the system that will eliminate the problem forever.